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Sunday, 16 December, 2001, 11:20 GMT
Euro launch boon for US tourists
Euro logo as displayed in Frankfurt, Germany
The launch of euro currency has escaped Americans
David Schepp

In more normal times, American interest in the introduction of the euro currency might spark a fair amount of attention.

Times Square currency office
Tourists outside this Times Square currency exchange were largely unaware of the coming euro
After all, a strong US dollar in recent years has made overseas holidays more affordable than ever, sending record numbers of travel-hungry Americans across the Atlantic to explore the ancient culture and beauty of the European continent.

But to use a well-worn maxim, 11 September changed all that.

Americans willing to fly on holiday - a smaller number these days -are now far more concerned with airline security and airport hassles than with the novelty of exchanging currencies.

Destination Europe

If travel to Europe is indicative of American interest in euro conversion, than statistics reveal that very few have a vested interest in noting the coming of euro notes and coins.

A little more than 12 million Americans - or 4% of the population - visited eurozone countries in 2000, according to the US International Trade Administration.

Harold Damerol says he has already changed-over his European notes
One man who comprises that 4% is New Yorker Harold Damerol, who travels to Europe regularly.

"I was in Europe in October, and I handed-in all my national currencies because they won't be good when I come back," says Mr Damerol.

What Mr Damerol and others like him will find when they next travel to Europe is more convenience and less bother.

Exchanging currencies

No longer will tourists have to exchange currencies between, say, France and Germany, and encounter the fees involved in such a transaction.

Eliminating the need to change currencies between neighbouring countries will make travelling between European states much like travelling between, say, Texas and Louisiana.

US tourists going to eurozone countries will also realise a savings of several dollars, says John Nelson of ABN Amro, global head of foreign exchange for international banking giant.

In the aggregate, he says, "you're talking about a lot of money."

Incurring costs

American tourists face two types of costs in converting American dollars to foreign currency, Mr Nelson says.

Marva Frederick knows about the euro launch but not the details
One is the fee charged for the transaction. The other is less favourable rate usually given at conveniently placed currency-exchanging kiosks

"Those two things can be substantial costs - sometimes several percent."

Business as usual

While American tourists are just now having to deal with converting US currency to Euros, US-based businesses with overseas operations have had the last two years to acclimate.

The adoption of a single currency rather than 12 separate ones means a real savings for multinational firms, such as Ford or General Motors.

Businesses who have ties to eurozone countries now enjoy simplified oversight of international transactions, says Alex Beuzelin, senior market analyst at Ruesch International, a firm that specialises in international payments between businesses.

"In the past, if a business had ties with other businesses in, say, France, Germany and Italy, there were conceivably three different exchange rates to monitor and to manage risk for," he says.

"The euro essentially simplifies that because [business] only has that one currency to transact in," Mr Beuzelin says, adding that accounting procedures can be streamlined, resulting in greater savings.

Euro downsides

While most analysts view the adoption of the euro as a win-win for all parties involved, some American consumers are concerned the adoption of the euro will lead to higher prices for already perceived expensive European goods.

That is the concern of one New Yorker, who identified herself simply as Kirsten. "I feel each country should have their own monies," she says, referring to the possible confusion caused from converting to the euro as well as the possibility of increased prices.

For example, a pair of Levi's jeans that may cost 610 francs translates to 92.9939 euros. Consumer advocates fear that businesses will choose to round the price higher to 93 euros instead of down to 92.99, inflating prices slightly.

The "rounding up" of prices of goods at the retail level - and the threat of inflation - is one reason the European Central Bank (ECB) has been reluctant to cut interest rates, says ABN Amro's Nelson.

Also, European governments are pressuring businesses not to round up prices, because anything that is perceived as an impediment to the smooth introduction of the euro will be seen as undermining consumer confidence in the new currency.

For holiday-starved Americans, however, once safely transported to the other side of the Atlantic, the focus will be less on economic policy and more on the greater convenience euro notes and coins will usher in on 1 January.

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14 Dec 01 | Business
14 Dec 01 | Business
14 Dec 01 | Business
14 Dec 01 | Europe
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